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Jan 32, 2012 update: a few edits

Below is what Charles Sanders Peirce wrote shortly after William James died in 1910. James, 3 years his junior, whom Peirce survived by 4 years, was the one who gave him more support than anyone else (Josiah Royce being in the picture, though much less robustly), including generously giving him full credit for the founding of pragmatism, as well as literally making the movement count, in a big way, by the turn of the twentieth century.

His comprehension of men to the very core was most wonderful. Who, for example, could be of a nature so different from his than I? He so concrete, so living; I a mere table of contents, so abstract, a very snarl of twine. Yet in all my life I found scarce any soul that seemed to comprehend, naturally, [not] my concepts, but the mainspring of my life better than he did. He was even greater [in the] practice than in the theory of psychology. [6.184] (cited after Burks 1996, p. 341, edits in source)

I am citing the above after Arthur Burks, who is one of three editors of the impressive 8-volume Collected Papers of Peirce. The notation [6.184] refers to volume number and paragraph (I think), which can be looked up in volume 8 containing the bibliography.

Taking this opportunity to quote a self-reflective Peirce, who by the way, shared James’s belief that psychic phenomena can provide (the hallowed) empirical evidence of the reality of the Divine/a deity:

I say to people–imaginary interlocutors, for I have nobody to talk to,–you think that the proposition that truth and justice are the greatest powers in the world, is metaphorical. Well, I, for my part, hold it to be true. No doubt Truth has to have defenders to uphold it. But truth creates its defenders and gives them strength. The mode in which the idea of truth influences the world is esentially the same as that in which my desire to have the fire poked causes me to get up and poke it. There is efficient causation and there is final, or ideal, causation. If either of them is to be set down as a metaphor, it is rather the former. [8.272] (from a letter to James, cited after Burks 1996, p. 346, italics in source)

I say to people–imaginary interlocutors, for I have nobody to talk to–is the part that really GOT me. Especially in view of the context. James, a highly regarded academic at Harvard, Peirce–for all the credit James, Royce, a.o., gave his genius–never held an academic position after the relatively brief contract at John Hopkins. Most of what he wrote failed to attract the favor of publishers, until the resurgence of interest in pragmatism toward the end of the twentieth century. Both Peirce and James had to handle serious ailments for the duration of their lives. Peirce trigeminal neuralgia since his late teens, an extremely painful condition caused by a facial nerve, which pushed him to counteract it with tobacco, alcohol, morphine… James was fighting neurasthenia. In the case of Peirce, personal suffering combined with “a very snarl of twine” of a personality (per quote at top), in James’s case, apparently, with understanding and compassion.

Yet, judging by their respective writings, Peirce was James’s equal in his understanding of how interdependent humans are on one another, even if from his more of a logical-cosmic perspective. Regarding the (epistemological human-cosmos) realm that he cared about the most, he multiply stressed that Truth/Reality cannot possibly be achieved by an individual, but can only be the outcome of an enterprise of an “infinite community” of human knowers. Likely of scientifically minded, inquiry-motivated ones, given Peirce’s penchant for the discipline and beauty of logic and the natural sciences.

to be continued…

WP’s last 2 acknowledgements:
Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.
— Isaac Asimov
That isn’t writing at all, it’s typing. [it was copy-paste-deleting, actually, i.e, current post re-posted with edits; LOL at the thematically attuned random choice]
— Truman Capote


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